Paschal Emeka, Abuja

The Nigerian Navy has debunked a report published on Thisday newspaper of Thursday 28 July, 2022 edition, alleging the unwillingness or inability of the navy to halt oil theft menace as attacks in the Gulf have reduced.

The report also identified massive crude oil theft as one of the reasons for which the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited is unable to meet its oil quota.

Furthermore, it was alleged that, “the top hierarchy of the Navy fighting the menace in the Niger Delta have been fingered by locals and several top Nigerians of complicity in the growing oil theft.”

Mention was also made to the immediate past Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd) who was reported to have admitted and lamented the involvement of naval personnel in the illicit oil bunkering and theft in the country, warning them (navy personnel) to desist.

Commodore Ao Ayo-Vaughan Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, while reacting to the report over the weekend in a statement claimed that “it is most surprising that the writers of the report are unaware of the several operational efforts of the Nigerian Navy to curb Crude Oil Theft (COT) and illegal refineries since the menace surfaced in the Niger Delta decades ago.

“For a report on such a topical issue to refer to a former CNS to buttress a point is an indication that the writers are totally oblivious of the current leadership of the Nigerian Navy. They would have taken the pains to do findings and personal updates on the subject matter before making such reckless, preposterous, and unfortunate remarks.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd) handed over on January 29, 2021. In the past 18 months, the Navy under the able leadership of the incumbent CNS has left no stone unturned in her renewed fight against illegalities in the maritime domain particularly COT, illegal bunkering, Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) and associated crimes.
Commodore Ayo-Vaughan explained in the statement that on April 1, 2022, the Nigerian Navy in synergy with the NNPC launched Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) meaning, ‘Stop the Thief’ in Hausa. The operation is to curb crude oil theft and associated crimes.

He informed that in the last four months, the entire naval assets and personnel in the Niger Delta have continually and vigorously fought the menace of COT as directed by the CNS.

The Navy, according to him, has also reported regularly and given updates on its efforts in the media with over 10 press releases stating the tireless efforts of the Navy to deny oil thieves well over N25,000,000 worth of stolen crude oil and product.

He gave the breakdown of achievements of the four months OPDDB which include the following seizures and arrests: AGO – 23,110,102.59litres, Crude Oil – 39,664,420.16 litres/230,882.73 barrels, DPK – 649,775.38 litres, PMS – 345,000.49 litres, Sludge – 380,000 litres , LPFO – 66,000 litres, Destroyed IRS –      278, Arrested Suspects – 85.
Arrested Boats –     72, Arrested Vehicles and Tanker-Trucks – 23, Destroyed Illegal Refinery Ovens – 127, Destroyed Illegal Refinery Large Pits – 102, Destroyed Illegal Refinery Storage Tanks – 148, Recovered Outboard Engine – 41 and Recovered Pumping Machines – 35.

He claimed the ongoing OPDDB has seen the mobilization of the entire Nigerian Navy Operations Bases and Forward Operating Bases, Ships, helicopters, personnel including the maritime surveillance infrastructure of the Navy in collaboration with sister services and other security agencies in the Niger Delta with the generous logistical support of NNPC.

“The entire region has indeed felt the impact of OPDDB because most oil thieves have been put out of business, the carbon soot that was predominant in some places due to the operation of Illegal refineries has disappeared and innocent citizens have been saved from the health dangers/hazards the fumes/soot posed to them. Navy personnel in the Niger Delta creeks have repeatedly raided these IRS to ensure they remain inactive, unproductive, and moribund.
“At the strategic level there are regular and fruitful exchanges, engagements and meetings between the leadership of the Navy and that of NNPC to continually reappraise, update and situate the operation so as to fashion out new strategies to curb the menace. The primary thrust and major effort of the Navy is the ongoing fight against COT and a lot of resources, equipment and logistics are being factored into the operation to sustain the effort.

“There is therefore, no unwillingness or inability on the part of the Navy to curb the menace of COT having demonstrated the resolve in the last four months and even before OPDDB was launched. To allege, imply or assume anything to the contrary is mere falsehood and rude misrepresentation which must be retracted.

“Secondly, in alleging complicity by the top hierarchy of the Navy in the crime of oil theft by locals and several top Nigerians, the report again proved spurious, imaginary and unsubstantiated, and the general public must not be misinformed on the caliber of senior officers that form the top hierarchy of the Nigerian Navy.

“Although, we are unfortunate as a nation to suffer from sleazes from time to time from some unpatriotic Nigerians, this does not imply that there are no honourable men in Nigeria and some are naval officers. As a matter of fact, to demonstrate the zero tolerance of the Navy for COT, some officers who at a time were alleged to be complicit in COT are presently facing charges before a court martial. It is a routine in the Navy for personnel to be repeatedly warned to desist from any act of involvement or compromise with oil thieves, most often by the CNS personally.

“Thirdly, the uninformed writers of the report are invited to note the difference between oil theft and oil losses. Oil theft occurs when the crude oil is siphoned from oil wells or vandalized pipelines into barges or wooden boats destined for ships at sea or the illegal refineries. The loss on the other hand occurs when a pipeline is shut down, for example the Trans-Niger Pipeline.

“The barrels of oil that would have been transported for sale cannot be, hence it is a loss to the NNPC. Claims of theft of 108,000 barrels of crude oil for instance implies that on a daily basis 22 x 5,000 barrel (5 tons) capacity barges would be required by oil thieves to convey the consignment through the creeks to the high sea for sale to ships. In a month therefore, about 660 barges will be required to convey the acclaimed quantity of stolen crude to sea.

“This is totally a false assertion because such a mass movement of barges is impossible given the operation and daily patrols of the Nigerian Navy. Furthermore, crude oil losses are attributed to Metering errors and Shut In (as just explained) by NNPC.

“Operators of Illegal refineries in the Niger Delta source crude oil mainly from unused and unsealed oil wells and vandalized pipelines to which illegal connections are made to siphon oil.

Commodore Ayo-Vaughan therefore, maintained that the Nigerian Navy has not reneged and urged political, traditional and opinion leaders in the region to educate the people to note the environmental, economic and health hazards the crime of COT and IRS pose to the operators, people and entire region, hence the need to dissuade the oil thieves from the crime.
“To allege the unwillingness of the Navy to curb the menace is totally false and highly distasteful. The members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm have always been considered to be partners in progress at resolving the problems of the country and should therefore, not exacerbate the problems.

“Journalists are please, advised to acquaint themselves with happenings outside their area of reportage, liaise properly with their colleagues whose area of reportage they may be delving into in the course of duty and clear doubts on grey areas before going to the press. Do endeavour to update yourself and make calls and painstaking efforts to achieve truthful and balanced reportage.

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